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On the way to the airport, a quiet ally way leads up and over the hill. When I show Maggie my pictures on the plane, she says that this reminds her most of her home in China. "This reminds me of back home, it is very green and beautiful."

I get on my three hour plane ride from Vancouver Canada to Phoenix Arizona, tired to the bone and in desperate need of a nap. I get in my seat with a middle aged lady on my right dressed in all hot pink, and an empty seat to my left. I hoped that it would stay that way, I wasn’t in a mood to speak or to deal with people having to get up to pee every 15 minutes.

A short, older woman rushes down the aisle and plops next to me, with a silver purse and a fanny pack. A very iconic looking character. She has rectangular glasses, short black hair and a fuchsia sweater matching her fuchsia socks. Just before the plane was getting ready to take off, she leans over to me and asks, “Would you like some gum? It helps with your ears popping”. I graciously accept while she asks the lady next to me, who declines her offer. The occasional question would come up, such as, “where are you going”? And “do you have any family in Vancouver”? Nothing too out of the ordinary. She’s a witty lady, but also persistent. As the conversation gets more in depth, we get more and more detailed and Maggie ends up telling me stories and experiences of her life.

Maggie was born in China during a time when outside counties and their people were considered evil and contaminated. China’s borders were shut to all insiders and outsiders. Citizens jobs were regulated and controlled by the government. Since her parents had graduated, they were required to work in fields that the government directed them towards. Her  parents’ jobs were in two different cities, so they were unable to raise a family and provide for each other. Thus resulting in Maggie being raised by her grandparents.

Her whole life, Maggie’s father wanted her to go to business school. At that time in China, to make a telephone call you had to go to a post office and wait in line for hours. Many homes didn’t have access to outside of the country. Her father was an important businessman; he created telephone systems and gave them to developing Chinese cities. Her father is a devoted man, great work ethic and very clever. In her youth, she had gone to boarding schools. She only saw her parents on summer break and in summer. In university, she was able to travel with the president of her university all over China to be apart of committees and to learn about the business world.

Maggie grew up in a Christian family, but her family wasn’t devoted to the church and Maggie’s two younger sisters didn’t believe in Christ. As time went on, she got more and more devoted to serving the church. She worked with Christians that came from America who wanted to learn Chinese, and Chinese citizens who wanted to learn English. She made combined activities to work with them all. She thought that America’s version and belief system of Christianity was weird, and it didn’t make sense to her, the others thought the same thing about the Chinese Christian belief system.

A close friend of Maggie’s church had notified her that she had finally gotten her passport and was headed to America. Maggie was very happy for her, yet she couldn’t help but feel jealous. She had always wanted to leave China and study in America. Her friend invited her to walk to the Hong Kong border to see her off. While walking her friend to the Hong Kong border, she felt a voice inside of her. It had told her that she was going to get her passport and cross the bridge in two weeks. She was confused and almost didn’t listen to it. “Getting your passport in China isn’t an easy process”, she says. “It took me 10 years to get mine, and I even got denied the first time”.

Maggie came to America when she was 28. She arrived in Texas, and stayed at a host mother’s house. She had attended a church and said that she felt like she was very loved there and felt like she had a place in the world. “There was such a strong community”.

While in America, she was going to school for Business Science like her father always wanted. She one semester away from graduating with her masters degree, when she wasn’t able to continue with her schooling because her English wasn’t good enough. She had the English of a ninth grader. She instead went to a religious university. She wasn’t sure which one to go to but her friends had helped to guide her to the right direction.

After some time going to her religious university, she was baptized in her host mother’s bathtub. She considers her baptism certificate as one of her very sacred documents. After her baptism, she said that she’d “never felt more at peace” with herself and the community around her.

Her father had landed in America due to a business trip, and had had enough time to visit Maggie and where he was staying. Her father didn’t understand her practices at first. He was confused and didn’t approve. He was angry that she had quit her degree in business and had went onto religious university. It took several hours for Maggie and her host mother to explain. Her host mother even gave her father a Chinese version of a movie about jesus Christ’s life. A month after he had left America, she had gotten a phone call that he could recite the movie by heart and that her whole family now went to church every Sunday, religiously.

She reconnected a man named Martin that she had never agreed with, and had always butted heads with. They had to go on missions in the downtown area to inform citizens about Jesus Christ and the whole of Christianity. Everyone had already picked their partners, so they were the only two left. He was very energetic and always moving fast. After getting ignored and turned away for days on end, a homeless man named Henry came and listened to what they had to say. In his eyes, he saw this as a sign. Maggie and Martin got a phone call a couple weeks later, with Henry explaining that he went home to his family and is now living happily with them and is a member of his local church. He thanked them for introducing him to the holy world of Christianity.

Days into Maggie working with Martin, she had gotten this feeling in her heart. She was confused if this was the feeling of love, or another feeling of longing. To her, it was definitely love. They ended up going on dates with each other to the movies and to the campus park. Maggie’s favorite dates were always at an authentic Mexican restaurant that to “any other person would’ve seemed crummy and old”, but to them, held special memories that still last to this day. Maggie’s friends would gussy her up with makeup and super tall heels that she could barely walk in.

Her prestigious father has gotten another business trip to America, and was going to meet Martin and his family for the first time. The couple had brought Maggie’s father to their favorite Mexican restaurant that holds their favorite memories of their first dates together. Despite of the times Martin and Maggie had, Maggie’s father didn’t find it cute, delicate or good. He was used to fancy five star dinners, fit for important business men. Maggie’s father was very skeptical about the restaurant and their future. He didn’t think that they were financially stable and was worried that they weren’t going to have enough money to support themselves while living on their own. Her father spend a whole hour trying to convince Martin to go into a different field of work. Maggie explained that they were “both happy, and didn’t need money to be happy. All they needed was God and each other”. After deeply rooted hesitation, Maggie’s father had given Martin a blessing for him to marry Maggie. They married each other when they were both 30.

“The wedding was very pricy”, Maggie says. “My husband-boyfriend at the time- was working three jobs at once and was very tired all of the time. I was working 7am to 11pm shifts at my church library”. At a certain point, Martian had thrown his hands up and said that if they were meant to be, why wasn’t God making the money easy to acquire? Why was it taking so long to pay for everything? Through long hours and backbreaking work, they had gotten married just in time to get the news that Maggie was pregnant with her first child.

Since Maggie was still going to religious university, her baby bump was the talk of the school. Her belly would get rubbed by her professors and her morning sickness would kick in right before roll call. It was definitely a hard nine months. Since Maggie didn’t have her drivers license, her professor drove her to and from school every day.

When the baby was born and she had finished her masters degree, she quit school and let her husband go to school full time while she worked. “I still wanted to go to school, of course,” Maggie says. “I just thought that I needed him to go to school. I had a baby to take care of, a church to run and a family to provide for. I was in no place to tell my husband to not go to school.”

The two went on to work in churches, Maggie specifically working in teaching children about the lord and the Holy Spirit in San Antonio. Maggie now works in designing church libraries around Texas and working with k-12 students. Maggie has two sons, one an EMT (emergency medical technician) and another attending an art college.

Maggie’s believes that no matter what, God has an answer for her prayers whether it’s healing her back pains or giving her the strength to pass her library certificate exam. She has kindness to spare wherever she goes and is willing to spill her whole life story to a stranger on a plane. A friend was made and had all started with the phrase,
“Would you like some gum? It helps with your ears popping”.